60m storm run… no one could stop Lee Kang-in
Even two to three years ago, Lee Kang-in’s토스카지노 (22) prospects on the European stage were dubious. In the 2018-2019 season, at the age of 17, he made his European professional debut at Valencia CF in La Liga, Spain. Due to his small size (173 cm 66 kg), he was pushed back in physical fights and his main focus was not fast, so he was limited in using his excellent dribbling and wide field of vision. In the 2019-2020 season, there were only 3 starts in the league (14 substitutions). In the 2020-2021 season, it rose slightly to 15 games (9 substitutions), but was unable to realize its potential as it continued to be replaced early in the second half. It was possible to step on the train of promising players who returned to Korea after receiving attention in Europe before and could not settle down.
But Lee Kang-in is standing up. In order not to be pushed back by physical fights, he steadily weight-trained and built a large body with muscles all over his body. As his thigh and calf muscles grew, so did his strength. Reinforcing his shortcomings, he left Valencia ahead of the 2021-2022 season and established himself as a firm main player in Mallorca, and reached full bloom with 5 goals and 4 assists this season, being called ‘the most outstanding talent on the team’.
The goal from the match against Getafe on the 24th was clearly different from the past. In the second half of extra time when the team was leading 2-1, Lee Kang-in caught the ball about 10 meters behind the half line and started running. Two defenders caught up with Lee Kang-in, but could not catch up. Lee Kang-in, who ran about 60m alone, made a powerful shot. Lee Kang-in, who also scored an equalizer to make it 1-1 in the 11th minute of the second half of the game, achieved his first multi-goal in his professional debut. He became the first Korean player to score two goals in one game in Spanish La Liga. Park Joo-young (Celta de Vigo at the time), who scored 3 goals in the 2012-2013 season, is the only La Liga Korean player to score. Lee Kang-in, who led the 3-1 victory, was praised by La Liga as the ‘designer of victory’ through social media. Whoscored.com, a soccer statistics website, gave him 8.6 points, the best of both teams.
Now Lee Kang-in’s eyes are on the EPL (England Premier League). It is considered the yolk of the upcoming summer transfer market. Lee Kang-in’s Spanish agent, Heiber Garrido, has also garnered attention since the 10th by posting pictures of the offices of EPL clubs such as Manchester City and Aston Villa on his social media.
First of all, the courtship of EPL Aston Villa stands out. Aston Villa, who finished 14th last season, are making a splash this season by finishing 6th. Underneath it is coach Unai Emery, who has topped the Europa League four times while leading Spanish Seville (2013-2016) and Villarreal (2020-2022). Emery was impressed with Lee Kang-in during his time at Villarreal, and is known to want to recruit him, saying, “I’m a fan of his.” Aston Villa has Philippe Cutinho (31, Brazil) in the same position. Coutinho joined this season but has not lived up to expectations with one goal in 20 appearances.
Newcastle United, which was acquired by a consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund in 2021 and is running third this season, is also showing interest. As it is currently the richest club in the EPL, its strength is that it can pay the estimated transfer fee of 18 million euros (approximately 26 billion won) for Lee Kang-in without any problems. This season, Newcastle was in trouble because there was no midfielder to develop an attack except for Bruno Guimaraes (27), the Brazilian national team, but Lee Kang-in is an analysis that can solve that weakness.
Wolverhampton, where Hwang Hee-chan (27) plays, and Burnley, which confirmed promotion to the EPL next season, are also considered candidates for destinations. In the field, it is accepted as an established fact that Lee Kang-in will leave Spain next season. One Football, a global soccer media, said, “There are not many games left to enjoy Lee Kang-in’s talent in Spain. The magic he used will be difficult to forget.”